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Data-Driven Decisions Can Help Slash Food Waste

Sarah Hutcherson headshotWords by Sarah Hutcherson
Data & Technology
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Since 2007, Elytus—a waste management and environmental services company based in Columbus, Ohio—has helped restaurants, groceries, and other companies manage their food waste streams. Its clients include Red Robin, CineMark Theatres and Bob Evans Restaurants.

Although Elytus started as a company to manage waste logistics, consumer demand drove its clients to change their business-as-usual practices, and in turn, the company has emerged as a trusted advisor as it consults with more companies on finding ways to make their operations run far more efficiently and sustainably. 

From hauling waste to sustainability advisor

“We started off as managing waste haulers’ logistics, but then consumers started to ask questions about how much was being thrown away, so we became subject matter experts of what is wasted and why,” Matthew Hollis, Elytus’ founder and president, told TriplePundit.

Now, Elytus embodies the motto “waste nothing” across its projects with different companies. The company has grown to 45 employees, servicing 50 nationwide clients, and has saved companies more than $11 million through waste audits, sustainability planning and ROI assessments, according to its website.  

“It is about really sitting down and showing, 'Here are the cost of the investments you need to make.' Then answering, 'What is the cost benefit, and how long is it going to take?'” Hollis said. “When a payback makes sense, [the clients] go for it."

During the interview, Hollis touched on how his clients are moving into data-driven decisions to cut food waste, which is an important step since it is estimated that full-service restaurants and limited-service restaurants waste $25.1 billion worth of food annually in the U.S.

Empowering data-driven decisions to cut waste

The most crucial step is for restaurants to benchmark their amount of food waste to understand how much money is being thrown away. Hollis explained that it is easier for restaurant owners to buy into the operational costs and impacts of waste reduction technology because the restaurant industry is capital intensive.

New technologies that enable the restaurant team to collect data about their waste include those offered by LeanPath and Winnow Solutions. Not only do these technologies help restaurants reduce their costs, but they also improve restaurant chains’ reputation as 72 percent of U.S. diners care about how restaurants handle waste, according to a Unilever study.

“I think technology has the ability to create connectivity between resource spaces, and to take one person’s waste to make it another persons’ feedstock,” Andrew Shakman, CEO and founder of Leanpath, recently told GreenBiz. “We see that as a big opportunity.”

When it comes to waste, both technology and knowledge are power

Another methodology to benchmark waste creation is made possible by sensor technology. Sensors in coolers and refrigerators can help companies monitor their products’ perishability and alert employees. Zest Labs is one company utilizing the Internet of Things to curb waste along the supply chain, including restaurants’ back-of-house operations. 

By understanding how much food and plastic waste is being created, Elytus’ clients are better able to prevent waste during operations and procurement to make a dent in their waste production and curb operational costs by making decisions such as eliminating the use of single-use plastic containers.

“In the end, I am a firm believer that the largest impact that you can have your waste stream is by preventing it in the first place,” Hollis said.

Image credit: Pixabay

Sarah Hutcherson headshotSarah Hutcherson

As a recent Bard MBA Sustainability graduate, Sarah is excited to be a contributing writer to TriplePundit to demonstrate how environmentally and socially responsible business is synonymous with stronger returns and a more sustainable world. She is most intrigued with how to foster regenerative food systems, develop inclusive and democratic workplaces and inspire responsible consumption.

Read more stories by Sarah Hutcherson

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